Why “DWYL” Is Dumb Advice

lemondifficult, etsy,
lemondifficult, etsy,
Awesome embroidery from Etsy shop LemonDifficult

The advice “do what you love, love what you do” has always bothered me.  There is certainly something to be said for liking your job or enjoying going to work, but having what you do for a living relate directly to your passions is unrealistic and not very necessary to having a fulfilling life.

My passions have always been with music, art, and writing. There are shelves full of notebooks in my childhood bedroom, at least a dozen paintings leaning against the wall of my parents’ dining room, and many burned copies of albums on CDs released between 2004 and 2010 scattered throughout my parents’ house (there’s a theme that I should get  bigger apartment so I can move all my things out of my parents’ house).  I spent my teen years and early twenties searching for internships, classes, jobs, and side hustles that catered to my passions. As with all childhood dreams, what’s never apparent at first is how much work is involved to excel at those things. Also, how good you are in anything creatively or artistically related is subjective, which makes it hard for standards to be set, excel them, and make a living.

No matter what you choose to do in life, it requires work. What you choose to do to make a livelihood might naturally relate to your interests and you happen to be good at it, or it can just be a means of providing for yourself and your family. Over the weekend, Slate had this great article In the Name of Love that said the myth that everyone should aim to do what they are most passionate about devalues actually work and “dehumaniz[es] the vast majority of laborers.” While Do What You Love (DWYL) is uplifting and makes you question what you are doing with your life, it also suggests that passions exist as a means for profit and puts a monetary value on just how passionate one is. A few years ago, I was thinking about finding a way to sell paintings and make extra income. However, I found it too hard to put a price against the happiness I have while painting. Here’s a direct quote from the article on this point:

“DWYL is a secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation but is an act of love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, presumably it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.”

Furthermore, having people live by DWYL is drinking  the company culture Kool-Aid: if you truly love what you do, that means you are willing to do it at lower pay and for longer hours. Thinking of my friends and the many people I meet through FindSpark, it’s all too often that they go to explore their passion and in return work long hours, with little to no pay, and don’t learn the right skills and experience to help them get ahead (there are some fashion houses where you have to pay to intern there!)

Overall, there is nothing wrong with pursuing a passion and doing what’s necessary to achieve it. What is wrong is creating a standard that work is the only path to self-fulfillment. Personally, I like “You better work” as a better motivational phrase.

What are your thoughts? Is DWYL simply an uplifting mantra or an unrealistic standard? Is it wrong that this standard doesn’t apply to the labor force that makes some wonder companies like Apple possible?

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